A man who blasted his way into a Covington law office Tuesday afternoon fired off 60-80 shots before fatally turning the gun on himself, police said.
Roderick Rist, 47, of Slidell opened fire from outside the front door of the Upton Law office at 816 N. Columbia Street in Covington. More than 30 rounds later, Rist had completely shattered the glass front door and was able to enter the office, Capt. Jack West, interim chief of the Covington Police Department said. Only one employee — an office manager — was in the building, and she was able to hide while Rist was shooting at the door, West said.
The office manager was uninjured.
“He started outside and just worked his way inside,” West said.
Debbie Derouen, who was in the law office next door to Upton’s office, heard the shots.
The shots were intermittent — three shots and a pause, then more shots, Derouen said. She didn’t see the shooter.
Peter Stroble, a manager at Larry’s Hardware a block away from the shooting, didn’t hear the shots. But he had just finished making four keys for a woman in the store with her child. When the woman left, a police officer told her to get back inside, Stroble said.
Detectives recovered two .22-caliber semi-automatic pistols and two 9-mm semiautomatic handguns believed to have been used by Rist, West said.
The rampage began around 1:15 p.m., when traffic was thick on N. Columbia Street with the lunch crowd returning to the St. Tammany Justice Center in the next block. Covington Police received several calls about multiple shots fired at the office. Officers from the city’s police department, located just two blocks away, and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s deputies from the courthouse responded, West said. Police initially believed it was an active shooting, but when they entered they found the man dead.
The St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office ruled that Rist died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, West said.
Timothy Upton, whose office Rist attacked, said it was unusual that he wasn’t there. “I decided to go home for lunch, which I never do,” he said. A third employee, a paralegal, also was out of the office, Upton said.
Upton’s wife is his law partner, but she is rarely there, he said.
It wasn’t until Upton was about to return to the office that he got a frantic call from his office manager, who said she was in a police car.
“I recognized the hysteria in her voice,” he said. The office manager had no idea who the shooter was, he said, because she was hiding the entire time Rist was firing. She only saw his feet, Upton said.
But he was a former client. Upton settled a personal injury case for Rist “eight months or a year ago,” Upton said.
Up until today, there had been no indication that Rist was unhappy with the settlement.
“We did our best for the guy,” Upton said. “He had to sign off on the settlement.”
Upton added that Rist called his office a few days ago and that he “sounded bad,” but Upton wouldn’t go into specifics.
The firm handles mostly personal injury and criminal cases, he said.
Police shut down N. Columbia Street in front of the office until about 4 p.m. Investigators from the Sheriff’s Office crime lab were still on the scene. West estimated that it would take several hours to clear because of the large number of casings and projectiles they had to recover.
Police were reluctant to identify Rist until they had spoken to his wife and confirmed that she was safe, West said.
By about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, detectives had confirmed that Rist’s family was unharmed.
Upton said Rist had a “beautiful” family.
“My heart just goes out to them,” he said.